Learn, Lead, Lift with Wendy Ryan


In our latest episode of “Evolve: A New Era of Leadership,” we had the incredible opportunity to dive deep with Wendy Ryan, a seasoned HR and organizational development expert, CEO, and author of “Learn, Lead, Lift.”

Join Wendy and I for this conversation, as we talk about self-awareness and emotional literacy and the impact it has in the workplace. You can find the full transcript of our conversation on my website, along with more information about them and their work.

Wendy Ryan

Wendy Ryan (she/her/hers) is a Best Selling, 3x Award Winning Author, CEO of Kadabra, Mentor and Strategic Advisor. Wendy believes that all of our actions are consequential, especially in leadership. This is why it has been her life’s work to help leaders expand what’s possible through The Learn Lead Lift Framework®.

Wendy is a fearless advocate for increasing diversity, equity, inclusion, and access in the business and investor ecosystems. She engages awareness and connection to inspire leaders to take their next step towards greatness. Wendy is available for in-person or virtual keynote speaking engagements, panel discussions, podcast interviews, and small group learning sessions.


📘 Wendy shared her journey of writing the book she wished she had at 22. “Learn, Lead, Lift” is not just a guide for fresh graduates but a lifelong companion for anyone on a leadership path. It’s about mindset, leadership, and making impactful changes at every career stage. 

💡 The conversation was illuminating, especially around how our mindsets shape our reality. Wendy highlighted the importance of being aware of our mental lenses and how they filter our perceptions, emphasizing that understanding our mindsets can help us choose how we think about things. 

🧠 But it’s not just about mindset. Wendy and Carolyn discussed the critical role of emotions in leadership. Gone are the days when leaders were told to leave their feelings at the door. Emotions are data, and understanding them is crucial for making informed decisions.

🌍 Wendy’s insights into leadership in a VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity) world were particularly striking. She talked about the need for leaders to be constantly attentive, both to their own actions and the needs of those around them.

🏆 The “3T model” – Tolerate, Transform, Transcend – Wendy discussed is a powerful tool for decision-making. This framework helps leaders assess situations and decide whether to maintain the status quo, make changes, or completely overhaul their approach.

🙌 But perhaps most importantly, Wendy’s work in recognizing and addressing systemic oppression and power dynamics in leadership is pivotal. She encourages leaders to be more intentional and aware of their privilege and how it impacts others.

This episode is a goldmine for leaders seeking to evolve and adapt in an ever-changing world. Wendy Ryan’s insights provide practical tools and profound wisdom for anyone looking to lead with more awareness, empathy, and effectiveness.

We talk about:

  • [0:00] Intro

  • [2:33] The inspiration behind writing her book

  • [5:01] What her 20 year old self could have taken away from this book

  • [6:44] How to overcome a workplace mindset that is no longer serving us

  • [8:53] Mindset shifts within leaders

  • [12:11] Tools to become more emotionally literate

  • [14:55] Doing her work without stepping into the boundaries of being a therapist

  • [18:24] Bringing safety, consistency and choice into your work with senior leaders

  • [20:11] VUCA

  • [24:18] Indicators that your team or organization might be ready for this work

  • [27:20] How the 3T model fits in with her work with teams and individuals

  • [33:23] Where does systemic oppression, power and privilege come into her work

  • [38:01] What would you suggest for listeners to help them get curious and evolve their mindset around these topics

  • [48:15] Rapid fire questions


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Carolyn: Okay. I am really excited to have this conversation today. Our guest today is Wendy Ryan and Wendy is the CEO of Kadabra and not only is she a CEO of this organization, she has over 25 years of experience in human resources, organizational development, and Executive development. This means she has just a wide range of experience with hundreds and hundreds of individuals and teams and organizations globally.

Carolyn: Wendy wrote a book called learn, lift, lead how to think, act, and inspire your way to greatness. And that’s going to form the foundation of our conversation today. Now, the other piece of Wendy’s work that I’m going to guess is going to show up in our conversation today is how she advises and invests in early stage companies.

She was an executive producer for a film called show her the money. And I have a feeling that will come up in our conversation today. Well, let’s not wait any longer and let’s dive right into this conversation with Wendy.

Hello, evolve community. We’re here with another episode of evolve a new era of leadership. And I am so excited. I, I know I say this every week. I’m excited for my guests and I am just as excited to have our guest this week. Wendy Ryan, Wendy, welcome to the show.

Wendy: Great to be here, Carolyn. Thanks for having me.

Carolyn: Yeah, no, I just I. You know, when I was doing the opening, I was saying how excited I was to have you. You have all of this HR experience and OD experience, organizational development experience, and you are a CEO. 

So you’ve written this book called Learn, Lead, Lift. And each of those L’s are very deliberately in order.

And so we’d love to hear about. Really like what inspired you to write this book and maybe just give us a brief overview. We’re going to dig into it a little bit more, but let’s just start off with what is it and why did we inspired to write it?

Wendy: Sure. Well, I’ve always been a writer. I’ve always been pretty good at it. It came naturally to me. So I think I was waiting for the right season of my life and the right topic to write about. And so as I Near the milestone of turning 50, as, as we, we are fortunate to do,

Carolyn: we are.

Wendy: I, I started to really reflect on what, what had I learned in my own career journey and what could I possibly offer to the world that was maybe a little bit more impactful than the work I was doing with one individual, one team, one organization at a time.

So that’s where. I felt really inspired to write about leadership. I, I figured out by now, I have a point of view on leadership. And I also thought about what would happen if I got to have conversations with other people about what makes a great leader and synthesize that together into something that really could be useful.

So to some extent, I wrote the book. I wish I had read when I was 22, fresh out of college, trying to make my way. In the world, and always very much drawn to leadership. And, and then also what would be a, a book and a model that could follow you all the way through your career trajectory. So it isn’t just intended to be for people that are, you know, fresh out of university, but really how do we think about leadership broadly and deeply throughout our life cycle?

Carolyn: Now you said the book you wish you would have read, you know, I think back to my age I I’m with you. I passed a milestone myself. And yes, thank you. And I sometimes wonder, like, would I have been able to understand the wisdom that was being imparted on these pages back then? And I also know that the beginning, you know, part of your book talks about learning.

So I guess I’m just curious, like what could your, 20 something self have taken from this book?

Wendy: I think I would have taken a lot from this book, particularly in the mindset realm

Carolyn: Hmm.

Wendy: You know, and and some of this was the time because of course at the time I was that age and stage we weren’t really talking about mindset very much and we weren’t as conscious then of the fact that mindsets are something that we can learn and Unlearn and that we can actually choose how we think about things and I think that that has been Very powerful for me, and I think a lot of the folks that I’ve worked with over the years in terms of really helping us to be the leader and the human that we want to be so mindset is, is not the only thing that matters, but it’s a huge piece of it.

And I think I would have really benefited from having that understanding particularly a little earlier in my life,

Carolyn: Yeah. Well, I know the mindset that I grew up with was you’re not supposed to enjoy your job, go get it done, leave your feelings at home and just come in and give yourself over to the employee or the employer and in return you will get. Some loyalty.

Wendy: right? Yes,

Carolyn: mindsets aren’t, aren’t working for us anymore.

Are they?

Wendy: not so well, not so well now, and lots of reasons for that, right? But the fact is that it’s really powerful when we understand that we’re the architect of our own reality, and a lot of that is how we choose to think about things.

Carolyn: So in your experience, 

Wendy, what is the what gets in the way for most, for, for most people and how do they overcome this first part of, of mindset? Yeah.

Wendy: I think, I think it’s first of all, realizing that they’re there in the first place. So when I talk about mindsets, I like to use the analogy that, that Ryan Gotfredson introduced us to which is that mindsets are like the mental lenses we wear, you know? So if you, if you’ve ever worn a pair of eyeglasses you can easily forget they’re there on your face sometimes.

And so. Mindsets are really filtering all of the information that we’re taking in around us through our five senses, through our emotional processing. And so just by being aware that they’re there and that they are filtering our perception is powerful. I think sometimes people, Get very uncomfortable when they hear that because then they think, Oh my gosh, I’m missing all of this information out there, all this data.

And I say, well, you know, let’s make friends with the mindset first of all, because none of us have the capacity to really process all the information that’s coming in. So mindsets really evolved as a way to protect us from information overload and they serve a real function. They allow us to respond very quickly because it’s all about.

recognizing patterns and how quickly we interpret that. So it’s the brain’s way of creating shortcuts and that probably helped us survive when we needed to be able to make decisions very quickly. As, as we evolved. So rather than say, you know, mindsets are a bad thing and they sort of limit our thinking, let’s just recognize that they do influence and shape and filter our thinking.

And once we have that understanding, then we can say, Hmm, so how else could I choose to think about this now that I maybe want to pay attention to a different set of information than what I’ve been exposed to in the past.

Carolyn: Yeah. Yeah. And, and we know now too, obviously that the mindsets that we have are very much influenced by our ability to process emotion.

Wendy: Indeed. Indeed.

Carolyn: And what’s been your experience with that level of of work with leaders? What kind of, what have you seen over, over your decades of, of work in the space?

Wendy: I think of motion as similar to mindsets. It’s something that a lot of us struggle to make friends with because there’s so many narratives, both culturally and in North America and in other places that really tell us that emotions are either something that we ought to be very stoic. We ought to really suppress and, and manage tightly.

Or that certain kinds of emotions are okay and certain are not. So what we don’t typically grow up learning to do is sort of recognize, name and integrate those emotions into how we’re thinking, right? So a lot of it I think in my work with with adults over the years has been about, again, let’s look at emotions as another very rich source of data and information, particularly if you’re a scientist or engineer or somebody who’s been sort of trained in that, in that sort of thinking, thinking about emotions as another source of data can, can be very helpful because then it’s like, Oh, okay, I’m used to managing data.

Emotions aren’t so scary. Yeah. And, and they’re useful if we just make decisions and plans as leaders based on what are facts that I can glean from an Excel spreadsheet, or doing a Google search, and we never tune into what our gut is telling us, we never tune into how other people might be reacting or responding to things, so what are other people emotionally, Dealing with, we don’t make as good as decisions, so we’re missing a huge piece of the of the puzzle that we need to be really effective.

Carolyn: Well, and I’ll go back to the mindset that was. ingrained in me. I didn’t really realize how emotion based I was. And I just remember like, leave your emotions at the door, get your love at home. That’s not what happens here. So this is like the late nineties and, and it was sort of like, you have to like, dissociate yourself from it.

You know, I, I’m a big, I’m a, I do a lot of work in the Enneagram space. And so the three centers of intelligence, which, you know, a head head, heart and gut, and that’s across a lot of different areas, right? It’s not just unique to the Enneagram, but what it did, Wendy, is it opened up my eyes and helped me realize like, Oh, emotions are data.

Yeah. And all these years, I was this like heart type in hiding and. And now I’m like welcoming, as you said, and learning to use it as data and to also recognize that it shows up in my body as sensations. I’m like, Oh, you’re, you’re allowed to do that. Like, I just didn’t know. So I feel like I’m getting this whole new relationship with like two thirds of me that I didn’t think was allowed to show up at work.

Wendy: that’s wonderful. It’s like it’s not a flaw in our operating system. It’s a huge strength and we have to sort of learn, learn that again or learn that anew. Most of us,

Carolyn: Yeah. And, and so on the topic of emotions, let’s just go there a bit more.

 What do you find helps what has helped you become more emotionally literate so that when you’re in that moment and feeling an emotion, you have a wider repertoire of words to select from to describe what you’re feeling.

Wendy: so I, I am certainly a fan of, of what cognitive behavioral science has taught us about the fact that what we think is, is often the precursor to what we then experience as an emotion. So, 1 of the techniques that that I. used and found very helpful is to recognize that when I’m feeling something to really try to engage my thinking brain and say what is the story I’m telling myself right now?

Or what is the thought that I’m having that might be driving this emotion? And just that one step really has been helpful for me in terms of regulating. First of all, so kind of being able to attenuate, you know, how, how strongly do I, do I experience this? And what do I do with that experience? And, and also just to, to better understand and learn to value that.

As it’s, it’s a clue that I need to pay attention to. Sometimes we react to things and, and we’re having thoughts that come up that are based on really experiences that we’ve had in the past that may or may not really be similar to the current situation we’re in. And it’s important that we, you know, dig into that.

And we understand when that’s happening because a lot of times what we see when people haven’t. Really looked at that or done that work is that they’ll either underreact or they’ll overreact. Right? So how many times are we in a meeting when all of a sudden somebody just explodes right with anger and everybody’s kind of sitting around often frozen in place saying what’s going on?

I just this one, you know, The Xerox machine’s broken and then he just lost it. I don’t understand what’s happening. Well, there’s probably something that’s going on there that’s not really about the current situation we’re in.

Carolyn: Yep. Yeah. And I think, you know, I shared with you, I’ve, I’ve written a book about, about being trauma informed and, and that. You know, through my again, journey was I was adamant that my past was not going to show up and, and that’s why I think, you know, your work and, and those of you leading, leading the way to help us see that we are one whole being, and we can’t splice ourself into these different pieces because it will follow us.

So when, when you work with clients, Wendy, how do you. 

How do you do that work? And maybe that comes into like the 3T, like your, your model without stepping into the bounds into the boundaries of being a therapist.

Wendy: Yes. Oh, I love this question because a lot of times people have a hard time understanding what’s the difference between say coaching or advising and and therapy and those are really three distinct modalities that I think all bring tremendous value, but they don’t do the same thing and I definitely don’t do therapy.

That that is something that my team and I. You know, we work pretty hard to make sure that we are staying within our scope of practice. Because we really believe that if we go outside of our scope of practice, then we, we open up potential pathways to harm. And very much, you know, we don’t take the Hippocratic oath, but we sort of come from that place of do no harm.

If we feel that working with someone is going to make the situation worse for them, don’t want to be a part of that. We only want to be in service of helping people move in a more positive direction. So, I think that being trauma informed and the Learn, Lead, Lift framework is inherently trauma informed.

It means that we recognize that trauma is a very universal human experience, that many of the people and, and organizations we work with have experienced trauma, and While we don’t need to understand the source of it, and we don’t need to fix that for them, we’re attentive to the ways in which people can become activated, and then how do we hold space for that.

In a way so that it doesn’t derail a meeting or we, we give that person a sense of, of safety or some options that where they can increase their sense of safety so that we can keep moving productively forward. And that’s a very different approach than what you and I both grew up with in the nineties of leave your emotions at home.

You know, it’s like if you’ve had trauma, we don’t want to hear about it. We don’t want to see it. You know, you have to pretend like none of that stuff ever happened to you. That’s not what we’re saying. What we’re saying is you don’t have to share any more detail about what’s going on than, than you want to here, but do you need to take a break?

You know, how about we all take a break? Right? Simple, simple things sometimes can make just a huge difference for people in, in, in feeling supported and safe, and then they’re able to be productive. That’s what it’s all about.

Carolyn: Yeah. And, and those invitations Like you said, choice and safety is, you know, when I think of the corporate world that, you know, you and I have both worked predominantly in, those aren’t necessarily words that we’ve associated with leadership,

Wendy: Right.

Carolyn: which is, I think the next, the new era you know, our, our, our nervous system is really a significant leadership tool.

It gives us so much information and it impacts the people. Around us so much more. I mean, right. Our, our nervous system doesn’t use words. It talks in cues or it communicates. It doesn’t talk. 

Yeah, so in your work, Wendy, do you, do you talk about the nervous system? Like, how do you bring this, this notion of safety and consistency and choice into a group of senior executive leaders?

Wendy: Yeah. Well, I think that, you know, not everybody is ready for some of this conversation about leadership. So, I think one of the things that we, we continue to encounter is different levels of readiness and we recognize that some, you know, senior executives and their teams are, are ready to. Really challenge themselves to be better leaders and understand what does that really mean going forward versus what was it like in the past?

And some are not there yet. And so, when we have the opportunity to work with senior executives and teams that are ready, then it’s a really. Dynamic challenging process, both for the facilitator and the participants to really talk about who are we being as leaders and who do we want to be? And what does that mean in the context of VUCA?

What does that mean in the context of current conditions in the world? Stakeholder expectations, five generations of employees. I mean, it’s leadership is done right is hard. It’s hard, hard work because you have to be constantly attentive both to how you’re, you are showing up as well as what’s going on with the people around you and that, that takes constant attention.

Carolyn: It does. And it can turn into hypervigilance as well, right? Depending on our background. I just want to circle back.

 I know I’m, I’m very familiar with VUCA. I joked with many clients about getting VUCA t shirts. But can you just let the audience know in case that’s not an acronym that they’re familiar with?

What is VUCA and how does it, why do leaders need to be aware of it?

Wendy: Yeah. So VUCA was coined by the U. S. military in the 90s. It stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity. and ambiguity. Those four things are descriptors for how if you, if you imagine a battlefield, for example, where lots of things are going on, conditions are very dynamic it’s a very different context in which to lead versus if you’re in a boardroom sitting around a conference table and talking about, in theory, What might happen on a battlefield?

Carolyn: Yeah.

Wendy: it’s in it. I think VUCA has always been with us. It’s not that the U. S. military invented VUCA. They just sort of coined the term. But I think a lot of us have seen. You know, in the pandemic was a really good, I think, example of this in some ways was how VUCA, the volume of VUCA has really grown and it’s, it’s become much more important that we think about how do we adapt systems to be, you know, VUCA, VUCA resilient.

Carolyn: Yeah. Yep. I noticed that you didn’t say tolerant or it’s resilient cause that that’s never going away. Right. That volatility, the uncertainty, and I’m sure you see it just as much as I do. The uncertainty can really, so now we’re back to safety and choice, right? All of this uncertainty can cause our nervous systems to be hypervigilant.

And then all of these. I’m not, I don’t, I don’t know what the right word is not as supportive behaviors can show up.

Wendy: right, right. When we’re under stress, when we are feeling emotions and anxiety is a piece of that, we tend to reach for and manifest behaviors that are comfortable and familiar for us. So. That is where we have to think about how do we create a pause in that cycle to allow people to make really productive, healthy choices about how they’re showing up and how they move forward.

And so a lot of when we talk about choice and safety, I start with leaders saying, how are you building in the pause in your meetings, in your days, in your weeks, both for you and for your team? Right. Where are those opportunities to pause because people need that, they need that in order to process.

Carolyn: So what happens when they say, Wendy, we don’t have time to pause. We got a lot of stuff to do.

Wendy: Right. It’s one of those, you know, we, we, we have to move more slowly to move faster, so it’s very counterintuitive.

Carolyn: Mm hmm.

Wendy: I wrote an article earlier this year for Emergence Magazine, and we came up with the term in a, in a brainstorm about that called mindful momentum.

Carolyn: Hmm.

Wendy: And I love that idea, and it was the idea that we need to move, and then stop and assess where are we, and then reorient, and then move again, stop, assess, and reorient, and that that’s actually the way through the fog.

And we use, yeah, we use the fog as an analogy for VUCA.

Carolyn: Right? Oh, that’s fabulous. And then it also recognizes the safety, the choice, because those mindful, mindful movements. Oh, I hope that catches on. There’s, there’s, did you make t shirts? Do you have mugs? Do you have mouse pads? Like,

Wendy: not yet, but let’s, let’s do it.

Carolyn: All right. Well, count me in, count me in for sure.

what you said, , you said some, some leaders, some, I guess, companies aren’t necessarily ready for this work. 

So what might be some indicators that you, your team, your organization are ready for this work? Cause we’re going to honor this do no harm.

So we don’t want to come in and start pontificating that you all need this. What are some indicators that we can look for?

Wendy: Yeah. Well, we all, I think, know that performative gestures and initiatives and retreats are Yeah. real, they happen, and that is not a sign of readiness. So we have to sort of distinguish between ready to, to do the work and recognizing that there’s going to be discomfort, there’s going to be stepping out of what is our, our sense of expertise, that’s not going to feel great.

And that’s different than, let me just bring in a facilitator to train us on emotional intelligence. Right. We don’t even like to use the word training. I, I feel like with humans, it’s, it’s always learning and it’s development. So when organizations are ready, I would say it’s, it’s when and it, it’s, it doesn’t have to be the CEO, but it certainly is best if the CEO is in that place of readiness when they Recognize that they don’t know everything.

Carolyn: Mm.

Wendy: So there has to be a sense of, hey, maybe, maybe, even though I have lots of experience, I’ve gone to the best schools or not, there’s something more for me to learn and I’m willing and I’m open to that. So I think that’s a Absolutely critical must have is is a sense of I don’t know everything and I’m willing to learn and the fact that I don’t know everything I’m willing to learn is strength not weakness

Carolyn: Right. Yep. Yeah. And it really, like you said, I’ve seen lots of examples where the 

CEO might not be ready or they say they’re ready. And then have you had that happen where they, you know, get into it and maybe not as ready as they thought, to be honest, you know, it’s, I think that’s probably more, it hasn’t been like, Oh my gosh, this like, no more, no more.

Thank you. But it’s just like, Whoa, this is not what I thought it was.

Wendy: right, usually it’s in the form of I want you to come in and work with my team

Carolyn: right, right.

Wendy: fix all these things with the team, right? This person over here is, you know, doing this and this and that. Come in and then they’re surprised when I say, well, let’s talk about how you’re showing up. Let’s talk about your role in this system.

Let’s talk about your role at this event. It’s like, oh, no, I’m fine.

It’s all of these other people that have some work to do.

Carolyn: Yeah. And, and

 so can you describe how your 3T model fits into how you do this work with individuals and teams?

Wendy: Yeah. So 3T model is a mindset in the learn lead lift framework, and it was really born out of, I would say some frustration on my part, working with executives primarily and seeing people who are absolutely brilliant and yet seem to struggle very much to make decisions. And to, to a point where it often was very detrimental to the organization.

And I thought, how can I help these brilliant, smart people think differently about decisions? And I thought, well, part of it is maybe an under, a lack of understanding about what’s really happening on the resource side. And maybe part of it’s a lack of understanding that not making a decision is actually a decision.

Carolyn: Hmm.

Wendy: So the 3T model was really designed to again, help leaders think differently about that and recognize there’s some urgency here and some real clarity that, that has to be present. particularly the more senior you are in an organization and the more impactful your decisions are. So the, the three T’s stand for tolerating, transforming, or transcending. And the theory is that at any given time, you, you really have only those three options with any set of circumstances. I could choose to tolerate the status quo. I can choose to transform it, or I can transcend it.

Carolyn: Hmm.

Wendy: And if I say I’m not ready to make any of those decisions, I’m tolerating.

Carolyn: Right.

Wendy: And in doing that, our collective energy, our resources are going toward maintaining that status quo.

It’s just like a duck swimming on a pond. The feet have to move. So maintaining the status quo still costs us, still costs us time and energy and effort and all of those things. Is that the best place for us to invest the organization’s energy and resources? Sometimes yes. But not always.

Carolyn: Right. Right. And what about transforming and transcending? What would be an example for those?

Wendy: Yeah, so transforming is, you know, you’ve kind of, if you’ve used this model or not, but you’ve come to the conclusion that our energy and time and money is best spent trying to change something about the status quo. So yes, we’re going to invest in doing a new ERP system, or we’re going to move everything now to the cloud.

Those are painful, painful processes,

not to, not to knock any technology leaders out there, a software developers, but most organizations, you know, those are big lifts. And so it’s, there’s some real trade offs when you decide to transform, but. If that’s ultimately what is necessary for the, the business to survive and thrive, then again, would you, is it better to direct your energy and resources there or trying to maintain a status quo that by doing that you might become a dinosaur and go extinct?

So that’s, that’s transforming. Transcending is, is one that people struggle with a bit more. I would say it’s more rare. Transcending is about. I’m going to change myself so much or the organization is going to change itself so much that the status quo no longer affects us the way it did.

Carolyn: Hmm. So that’s interesting. So what would be an example of that?

Wendy: So I’ll go back to, to software. So if I’m a software development group, for example I might say, hey, in order for us to meet the deadline of our roadmap here, I’m going to have to add another 10 software developers. Well, if. My CEO comes back and says, that’s not doable. You you’ve got to figure out now how to do this in three months with the people you have.

That’s an opportunity to transform. Sometimes we don’t look enough inside and say, where, how can we reinvent how we do this, how we think about it, the process, the steps, et cetera. So maybe. You know, I think about constraints as being very helpful to us sometimes because they do catalyze development and they can catalyze this transcendence.

Not all the time, but sometimes. Yeah,

Carolyn: Wow. So basically, yeah, it’s when you have a set of circumstances that you can’t change. So

Wendy: you change.

Carolyn: you change to deal with it.

Wendy: Yeah, yeah,

Carolyn: It’s hard. I mean, imagine if workplaces had more transcendence and less tolerating.

Wendy: that would be something.

Carolyn: That would be. Wow. Just kind of having a moment of that. I love how you’ve taken that model and made it into those three Ts.

Wendy: Thank you. It’s I, I, I would say that the, the thing to be really cautious about, like all things, great thing, great things about it, some things we have to be careful about. especially around transcending, is we have to make sure that we’re not bypassing. So going back to our conversation about emotions, you can’t really transcend your emotions.

You have to digest them. You’ve got to process them, right? And same thing with things like systemic oppression.

Carolyn: Hmm. That’s where I wanted to go next. So there’s a beautiful segue.

Wendy: don’t get to transcend that, meaning we can’t say, well, I’m just going to not let that bother me anymore. That doesn’t work. So, so again, the context with the 3T model, as with many things, is really, really important.

Carolyn: Yeah. 

Can we talk a little bit about systemic oppression and power and privilege? Let’s just start like, right. Where does that come into your work and doing this work with teams and individuals?

Wendy: You know, when I started writing my book it was 2020, right? Or actually, no, it was ahead of that. It was probably in 2018 19. It took me a while. It took me three years to write the book. And one of the reasons it took so long is because when George Floyd was murdered, I put the, it was 75 percent done with the manuscript and I deliberately put it down and I gave myself six months where I was not going to write.

I was not going to do anything other than dig into what was happening and what don’t I yet understand that I need to 

understand. And I think that, that was really critical in terms of my own learning, because as someone who, you know, was born with a lot of privilege because I am white, cis, hetero, you know, upper socioeconomic circumstances and all of that it was really important that I understand what, what are the things that somehow were not part of my education, but that were part of reality for so many people.

So I’m, I’m really glad that that pause happened, not glad at all about, you know, what sort of catalyzed that. But I think it’s a much stronger framework as a result. The good news is when I picked it back up after that six months. I was really prepared to say, I’m going to throw all this out and start again.

If I don’t feel it’s really reflective of what leadership needs to be going forward. I still felt like it was. We were there, but I did add some things. So for example, the mindset identity matters came in as a result of that learning, which was complete opposite of what I’d been trained to think, which was, you know, I love that you shared how in the nineties, you know, it was leave all your emotions in your personal life at work.

Well, the other thing I was taught is, Oh, we don’t see color. You know,

Carolyn: Exactly. Yep.

Wendy: talk about anything that makes anybody different, so it really rethinking that is an example of, I think, what is so important to the framework but it wouldn’t have been there if, you know, I hadn’t been willing to dig into power, privilege, oppression, all the, all the isms that are there.

Carolyn: Yeah. It also, I think you know, your willingness to start everything again, I think also indicates the place that you’re writing it from. aNd that, that’s really important because that energy, that belief is going to well, it’s just going to have that energy around it. And you know, Absolutely.

Absolutely. We, we can’t be putting leadership books, we can’t be talking about leadership with addressing, with addressing this. It’s so, and we haven’t talked about it for so many years, for so many, too many years.

Wendy: Yes.

Carolyn: Yeah. Yeah. That was, I’ll say, like, when I, when I was writing my book, it was after George Floyd’s murder and I grappled with why didn’t I see this sooner and really, really had a range of emotions and I gave my space, myself space to process it.

But you know, what was at the core of it, Wendy, is I didn’t understand what the word trauma meant. And and that was A wake up call that like, why didn’t I understand what this word that’s so significant in our world? Why didn’t I understand what it meant to me, let alone anybody else? Like trauma was just something, I mean, I wrote about it in the, in the book, like trauma is something that showed up on ER, right?

George Clooney and oh my gosh, who was the other guy? The guy from Top Gun. Oh, Anthony Edwards, Anthony Edwards as the two main leads, like they would talk about incoming trauma. So to me, it was just this like physical act. Again, there’s my privilege not having, you know, seen that, that type of stuff, at least not remembering it anyway.

Yeah, so all that’s to say I love how your work is, is reflective of that and bringing in those perspectives of power and privilege. What would you like to share with leaders around that? I mean, I know that that’s not the full topic, but we want to inspire. We want to help educate. 

What, what would you suggest to those listening to help them inquire and get curious and evolve their mindset around this area?

Wendy: Yeah. You know, let’s acknowledge, first of all, it’s still a challenging topic for a lot of people. And so if your listeners are feeling that or going, Oh, no, we’re going to talk about the P word again, being privileged. Oh, and here we go. Let’s just acknowledge that it’s still challenging for people. And rather than, again, us shy away from that, or say that discomfort is a stop sign, let’s look at that as a speed bump.

Let’s look at that as, oh, okay, this is something that maybe I do need to lean into, or invest a little bit of energy. Because if I do, I’ll generate the momentum I need to go over that speed bump, and I will be better out the other side. I created a tool called the Ryan Privilege Quotient, or the PQ. I thought we have We have IQ.

We have EQ. So why don’t we have a privilege quotient? Like, just get really objective about this. And so we have a tool on our website, you know, you can download and it’s just a very simple one sheet assessment. And it, it, it basically helps us understand that. In walking around in general, going to the grocery store doing our day to day things, we all sort of have a, a general PQ that is based on how we identify visibly. aNd then we also have something, and this is what I really work with leaders on, we also have something called a situational PQ. And what that’s about is understanding that depending on what room I walk into, so if I’m walking into a room that’s full of other women who look like me, then my situational PQ is going to be pretty similar to my general PQ.

Carolyn: Right.

Wendy: But if I instead walk into a room, as I often have, that is all white. hetero men, my situational PQ actually goes down relative to theirs. And so there’s an opportunity for the men in that room, particularly the leader of that group, if they are have that awareness to say, Hmm, what can I do to make sure that Our privilege is not impeding her input, her contribution, her safety, right?

Her ability to show up wholeheartedly, productive. engaged, et cetera. And so just kind of switching on that awareness as leaders that, huh, I often may be in a space where I have the highest PQ in the room. And guess what? That generates for me both an opportunity and a responsibility to do something here.

And it doesn’t have to be a big deal. I don’t have to go, Oh, everybody let’s stop. She’s the only woman in the room. What let’s all do something. It’s the awareness and it’s the small things. Making sure she’s not the person that your colleague asked to take notes. Making sure I’m not the one people are asking to get coffee.

And, yes, these are things that have all, that have happened to me and many of the women I’ve worked with.

Carolyn: Yeah, or not asking somebody of that identity to carry the perspective of that entire group.

Wendy: Yes. You’re the only woman, so, so speak for all women, please.

Carolyn: Right. Right. Or you’re the only person of color. So speak for all. Yeah. OoH, that sounds like an amazing tool. I know. Um, I’m, I’m really proud to say that our government of Canada, I did a Google search a few years ago and they have something called the wheel of power and privilege and it’s on our government website.

And it’s, it’s, I’m going to guess it’s probably of the same sort of Genesis, like, of what you’re talking about. And it was an eye opener for me too. Like it just, again, that continual awareness and realizing, wow, like eight out of 10 boxes here or circles, pieces of the circle. I have a lot more power than I realize.

Wendy: Right. Mm

Carolyn: And, and that was because I was focusing on what I didn’t have. So again, we’re back to mindset, focusing on what I didn’t have and not on what I did have. And that was a big shift for me to sit in that and realize that’s pretty damn good

Wendy: hmm.

Carolyn: to have all that.

Wendy: I, I think I would, I would also just want to remind leaders in particular that we can be sitting in a meeting again and Making comments or asking questions, and if we’re with a very diverse group of people, understand that each of those people are going to be hearing what we’re saying and experiencing us differently based on how they identify.

And based on how we identify and so even if we would like to, it shouldn’t be otherwise, the reality is that that is how how it is so, why would we want to to go through life or go through our work day and and be totally You know, not unaware of that. I wouldn’t want to. I would want to know how is my message resonating and understand in advance that certain things are going to land differently with certain people.

Carolyn: Yep. You know, we’ve circled back to the do no harm. I, I, I believe, I mean, I actually looked up the history of the Hippocratic oath, but imagine if we, in our workplaces had an oath that we took similar to do no harm. And I think, you know, there’s a good number of people who do that. I mean, obviously it gets complicated because profits get in place, but I do believe for the most part, most people don’t put profits over people consciously. I think it’s unconsciously where we get stuck in these systems where we don’t pay attention because we are trying to just kind of keep up with everything and everything that we’ve talked about, everything that, you know, your work stands for is to be intentional and how we show up.

Wendy: All of our actions are consequential. All of them.


Carolyn: then that comes back to safety.

Safety is going to look different for all of us. And if we are truly going to do no harm, then we need to understand that at its core.

Wendy: Yes.

Carolyn: Yeah. Well, Wendy, we didn’t even talk. 

We did not even talk about this documentary that you helped create. produce. Can you just tell us really quickly about it and maybe where some listeners could find out more about it.

I know it’s called show her the money. You’re an executive producer. I know that you I don’t want to say it’s a side business for you, but I know that you invest and advise early stage companies.

Wendy: Yes. Yes. So in addition to leading Kadabra and our work on learning solutions for leadership development I also started angel investing about six years ago now. And that through that work and speaking on panels and various efforts to advance women I. Became acquainted with Catherine Gray, who is our producer for Show Her the Money and our amazing director, Kai Dickens, and the two of them, when, when they approached me with the project and said, you know, we want to make a movie that really educates people about the disparity in funding and the difficulties around access to capital for women.

I said, Oh wait, yes, that’s, I, I see it every day. I’ve had the privilege again of self funding my business as an entrepreneur, but that is not representative. Of most women in particular especially if you identify as a person of color or L-G-B-T-Q, it, it is the, the disparity is huge. And then they asked me if I would get in front of the camera, so I begrudgingly said yes. And so, you, if you watch the movie, you’ll also get to see more about my story and, and my journey as an investor and advocate for women L-G-B-T-Q and, and BIPOC

Carolyn: Yeah. And where, so where can we find this movie? This documentary?

Wendy: Yeah, so we’ve happily been to a number of film festivals and we, we won Best Feature Documentary at, at most of those, which is humbling and wonderful. We just had our first theatrical run in New York and L. A. concurrently. And then starting in 2024, we are on a 50 city tour throughout the U. S.

and internationally. So hopefully Canada will be, will be part of 

that. Ha, ha, ha. 

Carolyn: It’s in September.

Wendy: I wish, I wish.

but so, so certainly coming to a city near you and if anyone’s interested in learning more about the film or potentially hosting a screening then you can go to show her the money movie. com and find everything you need there.

Carolyn: Okay, great. We’ll, we’ll make sure that that’s in the show notes. 

And then, Just in general, Wendy, where could people find out? I think you’ve got probably a few areas. You could send people and you’ve got your, you know, cadaver. You’ve got learn lead lift. You’ve got show me the money movie. Where’s the best place people can find you?

Wendy: Yeah. I mean, depending on, you know, I, I, I’m always open to a conversation with people and like to, do what I can to help people connect with the resources they need to move forward in whatever way they want to move forward. So, I’m also, you can find me on LinkedIn. I’m probably the most active there when it comes to social media.

So, feel free to reach out, start a conversation or visit the websites you mentioned.

Carolyn: Perfect. Well, we’ll make sure that we include those in the show notes before we close off. Wendy. I have questions. 

I have questions from my Evolve book that I ask every, every person that comes on the show. And they are three pillars that I talk about in my framework of being an Evolve leader.

And the first one is self awareness. So I’m going to invite you to share a lesson you’ve learned, maybe a short anecdote, a perspective, something that you gleaned that took your, your level of self awareness to a level that you didn’t know existed. Yeah.

Wendy: So I will share, love the question. I will share that many years ago when I was leading a team and, and leading a field services organization, I received feedback that people found me initially, you know, kind of cold, kind of, kind of, And once they got to know me, they’re like, Oh, you’re really caring and genuine and all this stuff.

But, you know, initially like we’re kind of scared of you. And that was really impactful for me because I never ever thought of myself as being anything other than sort of warm and sensitive and And it was kind of the first time I think the, the light went on for me that around leadership behaviors, the difference between how, how we think we’re showing up and how we’re actually showing up to people and can I do something about that?

And today, I don’t, I don’t get people giving me that feedback as often. So I think that’s shifted a little bit, but, 

Carolyn: yeah.

Wendy: We’ll see.

Carolyn: of like you learn and you led and you lifted maybe.

Wendy: Yes. Maybe I, maybe I took some of my own own direction, but before I thought about it.

Carolyn: There you go. 

So now my second question is a ritual, a practice, something that you do to help bring calm or regulate your nervous system.

Wendy: So I have, I’m a very I would say kind of a creative person, even though I can’t make a lot of things, but I like to for example, I’ll I’ll hold some rocks. They’re, they’re crystals, but they’re just something tactile. And I find that really calming. I also do a lot of breath work both in the morning and throughout the day, and that’s been really important to me because I am a Someone who’s, who’s dealt with complex trauma and PTSD for many years.

And so nervous system care is absolutely a very high priority for me.

Carolyn: I’ve got my, my little rock here too.

Wendy: It

Carolyn: yeAh. And that’s why I asked that question. You know, I don’t get a lot of I think I’m up to like 50 plus people now and I very rarely get overlap. maybe, maybe there might be a practice I shouldn’t say very rarely, but like breathing, maybe I hear a lot or going for a walk, but the story that people attach to it, it’s always a little bit different.

And I think it’s just a lovely invitation for people to find what works for them. The bottom line is when we can communicate and tell our brain it’s safe by doing some of these things, it works and 

Wendy: does work and, and we’re, we, we all deserve that sense of safety and peace. So don’t, don’t withhold it from yourself.

Carolyn: Exactly. I haven’t, I haven’t played with my rock as much or my crystal. I’m going to do that more.

 nOw my last question, Wendy is around music and I’m going to a concert tonight. It’ll be my second one in two weeks. So I wanted to frame this question around music and, and how it. It can make us feel connected to something so much bigger.

Carolyn: And, you know, by the way, you’re, you’re agreeing with me. I I’m, it’s looks like music is a strong connector for you. And I find it can bring in this place of wonder and awe. And so my question is what is a, a song or genre of music that makes you feel in awe connected to something bigger than yourself?


Wendy: I do love music and I do listen to it almost constantly. So, other than situations like this, where it might be distracting, I do have it on most of the time because it is both calming for me, but it’s also energizing for me and I, I really like having that kind of ambient. Noise in the background. It’s hard for me, honestly, to pinpoint a specific genre. I will say that I really, really appreciate R& B and kind of soulful, kind of, kind of that coming out of that tradition is, is always very moving for me. And and so I think when I’m looking for a lift that that’s sort of what I naturally gravitate toward actually.

Carolyn: Is there like a song, like when you say, when you describe that, I felt like little shivers go up. Is there like this particular song that just moves you in that space?

Wendy: Wow. tHere are so many. I, you know, and I, and I’m not trying to avoid the question. I’m just literally like Sarah going, is there one song like just, just the other day I I heard a song in it. I was writing in a lift, you know, and I was, I was going somewhere and The driver had his playlist on which was like all R& B and I was like, I love this playlist and I heard this song and we both struggled to say who sings this song because it was really old and it was, it turned out to be Candy Rain which is from the 90s and I just thought, I love this song.

And so I’ve been obsessed with that, and I’ve been listening to that the last

Carolyn: I don’t even remember that song.

Wendy: Yeah,

Carolyn: Like can like candy as in the

Wendy: yeah, 



Carolyn: what falls I have to check that out after 

Wendy: I know. I would sing it, but I’m a little bit shy about it. I’d rather listen than make, make the music.

Carolyn: We’ll save that for another podcast Wendy

Wendy: if you’d sing it with me.

Carolyn: Yeah. Well, okay. Then maybe we won’t. I’m not singing it with you. Well, you know, that hour that just, it flew by thank you so much for coming on the show.

And I, I really hope that this year of 2024, your work continues to reach more people on the screens, on the pages. And thank you again for coming on.

Wendy: Thanks so much for having me. It’s been such a joy.

Carolyn: So, I did press stop on the conversation between Wendy and I, but not going to lie, the conversation kept going after we pressed stop. And 1 of the things we talked about was her documentary. I know we heard a little bit at the end of our conversation show her the money is the name of it and she was sharing how it’s going on this, tour in 2024. And the conversation that she and I started having was, Hey, maybe, maybe I will put together a group, find some other wonderful folks out there to help me do a viewing here in Toronto. So I’m putting it out there. To any of those any of you who are listening in the greater Toronto area, you might be getting an invitation from me in later in 2024.

We’ll see if we can help lift this message. I’m just really so grateful that one of my previous podcast guests introduced me to Wendy. I loved her book. I think. There was just so much rich richness in it. And as you heard us talk about, it, it evolved based on what she was learning about things happening in the world and systemic issues.

So I hope you go pick it up. I hope you can share this message, this this podcast with others. And please, if you can like, and subscribe, leave a comment would really appreciate that. And as always, you can reach out to me at carolynsuara. com and Hey, if you want to my book too, you can find it at several local bookstores in the Ontario area.

You can also find it on the major online retailers as well. Thanks for tuning in and we will see you next week with our next episode. Bye for now. 


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